If you’ve been following my posts over the past year, you probably know that I believe in the power of SEL skill assessment to improve outcomes by helping educators understand their students’ social-emotional strengths and needs.
This is an aspirational mission and one we at xSEL Labs take very seriously. In our partnerships with educators, we have seen many examples of educators who are ready, willing, and able to use SEL assessment data to improve teaching and learning. And when they do so, few things make us happier.
Sometimes, though, we fall short of this aspiration. This happens, for example, when a district goes to the trouble of assessing student SEL skills but runs into obstacles during or after the assessment that lessens the benefit. Perhaps district leadership was excited to assess but did not prepare building staff or help them understand what it is and how it will help, leaving them with a negative experience. Or perhaps assessment went smoothly, but the data were never reviewed, reflected upon, and used to make things better.
What Does it Mean for a District to be Ready to Assess Student SEL Skill?
At any rate, the few cases where events didn’t live up to our aspiration have gotten us to thinking: What is the difference between schools that use our assessments to make things better and those that struggle to do so?
Look, school systems are complicated political places, so I can’t say I have it all figured out. But I have noticed a few common elements in districts that make good use of our assessments, and happily use them year after year.
Successful partners have support for SEL assessment from the district and school leadership, there is consensus on how SEL is defined, the SEL assessment goals are clear, families understand and support assessment goals, assessment is scheduled in advance with enough time and people to be successful, and there is a clear plan for reviewing and using the assessment data to inform decision-making, and adequate professional learning supports are in place. In addition, SEL assessment is often most successful in districts that have implemented an SEL program universally. Schools with a strong foundation for teaching SEL skills are in a great position to use SEL assessment data.
There’s more, I’m certain of it. If there are things I missed, please let me know.
Try this Self-Assessment to See How Ready Your District Is to Assess Student SEL Skill
Based on these observations, I’ve developed a non-scientific (but hopefully useful!) self-assessment, designed for any administrator or educator who would like to adopt our assessments to determine how ready they are to use and benefit from SELweb and what might need to change for all of us to achieve the aspiration of using SEL assessment to benefit teaching and learning.
Like our other assessments, this is intended for formative purposes. Take it individually or share across your team, including district and school administrators, teachers and school counselors. Go ahead and take it. Use it to reflect on your district’s strengths and needs and readiness to make the most of SEL assessment. Use what to learn to build on your strength and address your areas of need to be ready to assess. Oh, and I won’t know who completed the survey, so answer as you see fit.
If enough of you respond, I’ll follow up in a bit with a blog post sharing what I learned about readiness to assess among this admittedly non-random sample. Don’t worry, I’ll only present aggregated results and won’t call out any individual respondent.
Drop us a line if we can help meet your assessment needs, or help you move closer to being ready to assess!